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June 6th, 2017:

Republicans are a little freaked out over Texas Congressional redistricting possibilities

I referenced this Trib story in last Friday’s post about the state declining to do a special session on redistricting, which at least some members of Congress from Texas would have liked. There was more to this story, which I want to focus on in this post.

Even as a tax code overhaul and the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections dominated the news in Washington this week, it was redistricting that absorbed many of the Texans. But the Texas GOP delegation concerns are evolving into a national worry.

As President Donald Trump’s approval ratings flag, control of the U.S. House increasingly appears up for grabs in the 2018 midterms. Republicans are counting every seat on the map, and the fear is that a newly drawn Texas seat will put even more seats into play.

According to one member, “a frantic call was put out” and GOP members of Congress from Texas met at the Republican National Committee on Tuesday night for a presentation of an “Armageddon map.” Republican attorneys and at least one party official showed many in the delegation a potential worst-case scenario if the 2018 Texas map is drawn by the three-judge panel. This potential map could jeopardize as many as a half-dozen Texas GOP incumbents and create ripple effects on the lines of many others.

The presentation did much to deeply rattle several Republican delegation members, according to people who attended the meeting. The RNC declined repeated attempts to respond to requests for comment.

But some sources within the delegation emerged from the Tuesday night meeting dubious of the frantic tone.

Emphasis mine. I’m not sure where that number comes from, as there are only three seats currently held by Republicans that were singled out by the court – the 23rd, the 26th, and the 27th, with the 26th being at a lower level of concern. The 35th was also cited, but it’s held by Democrat Lloyd Doggett. I’ve been trying to come up with a list of six potential Democratic pickups, combining both the potential new map and the three DCCC-targeted districts. This is what I’ve come up with:

– A redrawn CD23 is highly likely to be lost by the GOP. It won’t take much to change it into a Democratic-majority district.

– There were maps drawn by various Democratic groups during the 2011 process that created a second minority-majority Democratic seat in the D/FW area, to go along with CD33. Let’s say this is the new CD26, for the sake of simplicity.

– I suppose CD27 can be redrawn in a more Dem-friendly way, though it was a 60-40 district in 2016 and wasn’t any more Democratic that year than it was in 2012. But let’s assume it can be done.

– Throw in CDs 07 and 32 as potential victims of a strong Democratic year in 2018, and you’re up to five seats. CD32 could be affected by a redrawn CD26, but if it is it seems likely to me to be more Republican, since those voters will have to go somewhere to create room for a new Dem district. But let’s assume any such effect would be minimal.

– That still leaves one more seat. The next ones down the list are CDs 24 and 02, which would probably be more the effect of a super-strong Democratic wave instead of just an ordinary strong Democratic wave. If the GOP is freaking out about this, they have bigger problems to worry about than a new Texas Congressional map.

Realistically, I think a new court-drawn map puts CD23 firmly into “Dem-favored” territory, and I think another Dem seat, possibly in the Metroplex and possibly in place of CD27, gets drawn. Maybe both, but surely one. CDs 07 and 32 will be as competitive as the 2018 environment allows; per Nate Silver, if the “Montana special election environment” is in place next November, I’d consider both of them to be in play. So a reasonable hope for two or possibly three seats, with an outside shot at four or five, and anything more than that being a bluest-of-blue skies scenario. I can see why Republicans might be a little spooked by that. For what it’s worth, Republicans “deserve” between 20 and 23 of the 36 Congressional seats – between 55.6% and 63.9% – based on statewide performance; they now have 25, or 69.4%, of the seats. So a Dem pickup of two to four seats would put the ratio about where it “should” be. Just something to keep in mind.

ACLU files for injunction against SB4

From the inbox:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas filed the first motion today to block the anti-immigrant and anti-law enforcement Texas Senate Bill (SB4) before it takes effect. This is the next step in the organization’s effort to strike down SB4.

The law, recently signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, strips localities and local law enforcement in the state of the authority to determine how to best use their limited resources to ensure the safety of their communities. The law also turns Texas into a “show me your papers” state. Law enforcement leaders throughout Texas and the country strongly oppose the law.

The motion, filed on behalf of the plaintiffs Texas LULAC and its members, the City of El Cenizo, the City’s Mayor Raul Reyes and Maverick County and elected officials of the County, asks the federal district court in San Antonio to fast track a ruling on the constitutionality of SB4. In this motion, the ACLU demonstrates that SB4 violates numerous fundamental constitutional rights and principles.

“Governor Abbott and his allies in the legislature enacted the harshest anti-immigration law in the country, ignoring the concerned voices of many Texans who stood in solidarity with our immigrant communities,” said Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “Not only will SB4 lead to wholesale racial profiling, it is so vaguely written that local officials and law enforcement agencies are essentially left to guess whether their policies and practices would violate the law. We’re proud to lead the charge on this important next step in the legal battle to keep this calamitous legislation from taking effect on September 1.”

“SB4 is patently unconstitutional. Under SB4, local authorities will be unable to serve their constituents,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Local officials won’t be able to keep Texans safe and will be forced to carry out harsh discriminatory policies that hurt their communities.”

The ACLU’s co-counsel are Luis Roberto Vera, Jr., LULAC’s National General Counsel, and Renea Hicks of the Law Office of Max Renea Hicks.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, submitted a declaration in support of the ACLU’s motion filed today. Gupta is a former head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.

SB4 Application for Preliminary Injunction:
https://www.aclutx.org/sites/default/files/sb4_application_for_preliminary_injunction_6.5.17.pdf

See here and here for the background. This occurred after the AG’s office filed a motion in the Austin court to consolidate the other anti-SB4 lawsuits with the lawsuit he filed to declare the law constitutional. Among other things, the courts are going to have to decide which of them will be the court in which all the action takes place. For now, there’s a lot of parallel activity going on. I can see this escalating quickly.

In the meantime, go read this NBC Latino story for the backdrop against which all this takes place.

Supporters of SB4 balk at suggestions the immigration enforcement law may foster racism or encourage discrimination, but as they try to enact it on Sept. 1, it will be impossible to ignore the state’s history of racism and the current challenges for Texans of Mexican descent.

Consider that, during the period from 1848 to 1928, at least 232 people of Mexican descent were killed by mob violence or lynchings in Texas — some committed at the hands of Texas Rangers, according to research by William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, authors of “Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence Against Mexicans in the United States.” Texas led 12 states in killings of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, the authors solidly documented.

In addition, the effort to place Texas under the anti-discrimination provisions of the Voting Rights Act was the genesis of the 1975 expansion of the act to extend its protections of voting rights of Latinos and other people who were then called “language minorities.”

More recently, Texas’ voter ID law, enacted in 2013, has been struck down in a series of court decisions that found it discriminatory.

Also, Texas’ education board only added Mexican-American studies as an elective course to its public school curriculum in 2014.

“For Texas it really has been a slow march to effective citizenship for Mexican-Americans,” said John Morán González, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at University of Texas at Austin.

Read the whole thing. You can argue with its premise or with the assertion that SB4 is racist, but you still have to grapple with the history. The DMN has more.

Here comes Conroe

Not so little anymore.

This isn’t the first time Conroe, population 82,286, has recorded notable growth.

In 2015, it was one of the 13 fastest-growing cities by percentage, ranking sixth below other Texas cities like San Marcos, Georgetown and Frisco. The next year, according to Census numbers released Thursday, Conroe zoomed to the top spot and became the headline on news stories across the country.

Forty miles north of downtown Houston, Conroe is the county seat of one of the fastest growing counties in Texas. Montgomery County netted more than 19,700 residents between July 2015 and July 2016, as Houston-area suburbs continued to expand.

In fact, Texas had four of the five fastest-growing large cities in the U.S., each near a major city. Following Conroe were the Dallas suburbs of Frisco and McKinney, which grew by 6.2 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively. Georgetown, an Austin suburb, was the fifth-fastest growing city with a population increase of 5.5 percent.

Officials in the Texas cities and the state’s demographer attribute the growth to various factors, including the state’s robust jobs market and the cities’ diversified economies, lower costs of living and skilled workforces that earn higher wages.

“A lot of times when people think of Texas, they think about cowboys and roping cows. But really we have … cutting edge manufacturing, technology and finance, and certainly all of the oil extraction activity as well,” Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter said.

For Conroe Mayor Toby Powell, a self-described “ol’ boy” who has lived in the city all his 76 years, the growth is no surprise.

In fact, Powell said, Conroe officials already had been planning for increased demand for city services and infrastructure. A new police station has just opened, and a new fire station is under construction. The city also has purchased 75 acres of land to build a second sewer plant.

Traffic congestion already can be seen just a few minutes away from its town square lined by old-fashioned street lamps and dotted with benches extolling the city’s history. Along Highway 105, which runs east-west through Conroe, shopping centers are home to chain stores and restaurants like Target, Home Depot, Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill, and queues of cars back up at lights and turn lanes.

Maybe I shouldn’t have joked about Conroe trying to annex The Woodlands back in the day. The former-small-town-turned-booming-suburb narrative isn’t new, and like so many other places – Katy, Pearland, Spring, etc etc etc – two facts remain: The original small town and the booming suburb that supplants it are two very different places, and the secret ingredient in all of them is an abundance of cheap, undeveloped land on which to build. That was Houston’s secret once upon a time, too. I don’t have any large point to make here, but I will note that just as the politics in places like Katy and Pearland have started to change as their populations have increased and diversified, so too will this happen in Conroe. It would be nice to have a bit of Democratic infrastructure in place for when that happens.